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Legislation for Content Moderation or Censorship? How does this Affect St. Ambrose?

J. Scott Applewhite, AP, File

The online world has become an important part of people’s daily lives. Many people rely on it for information, communication, entertainment, and more. However, with the increasing use of social media and other digital platforms, the problem of harmful online content has become more prominent. In response, governments around the world have been taking measures to regulate online content, and the latest effort in this direction is the Restrict Act.

According to Dispatch “U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told a reporter that he thinks TikTok “is a real threat to our national security.”

The Restrict Act is a proposed federal legislation sponsored by Mark Warner (D-VA), that aims to regulate online content in the United States that could potentially be harmful to the public safety of the U.S citizens. The act proposes to create a new government agency that will oversee content moderation on social media platforms and other online services. The agency will be responsible for enforcing the new regulations and will have the power to impose fines and other penalties on companies that fail to comply.

Here at St. Ambrose, students are outraged about potentially being censored while some understand that security is important, and this might be a step in the right direction for some is public security more important than freedom of speech at St. Ambrose?

The proposed legislation has sparked controversy among tech companies, free speech advocates, and the general public. Supporters of the act argue that it is necessary to protect the public from harmful content such as hate speech, fake news, and disinformation. They say that the current system of self-regulation by tech companies has failed, and that government intervention is needed to ensure a safer online environment. For students at St. Ambrose, it could make online spaces safer for students who may be at risk of cyberbullying, harassment, or exposure to inappropriate content.

SAU Poli Sci major Caleb Colgan says that “If the law protects people from being hurt and potentially big problems online, what’s so wrong about it?”

Opponents of the act argue that it poses a threat to free speech and could be used to censor political speech and dissenting voices threatening theories like the marketplace of ideas and free speech. They also point out that the proposed legislation is vague and could lead to overbroad content restrictions. Some tech companies have also raised concerns about the cost and logistical challenges of compliance with the new regulations.

The debate around the Restrict Act highlights the challenges of balancing free speech and public safety in the online world. While many agree that harmful online content is a problem, there is disagreement over how best to address it. Some argue that the solution is to improve the current system of self-regulation, while others believe that government intervention is necessary.

SAU Sophomore Tyler Vo, asks jokingly” Does the government really need to know my every move on social media… everyone online is just keyboard warriors”

One potential issue with the Restrict Act is its definition of harmful content. According to Mark
Warner the legislation proposes to regulate content that is “violent, extremist, harassing, or otherwise objectionable.” However, these terms are vague and open to interpretation, which could lead to overbroad content restrictions. Some free speech advocates argue that the legislation could be used to censor political speech and dissenting voices.

SAU Senior Alexis Lieber exclaims “content that is violent, extremist, harassing or otherwise objectionable is really up to interpretation… wouldn’t that mean they could ban anything they deem those qualities?”

Another concern is the potential impact of the legislation on small and medium-sized tech companies. While large companies such as Facebook and Twitter have the resources to comply with the new regulations, smaller companies may struggle to do so. This could lead to a concentration of power in the hands of a few large tech companies, which could have unintended consequences for the online ecosystem.

Despite the controversy, the Restrict Act has gained momentum in the US Congress, with several lawmakers expressing support for the proposal. The legislation has also received backing from some civil rights and advocacy groups, who see it to protect marginalized communities from online harassment and hate speech.

SAU Grad Student Julian Thomas, an IT major from Ball State sternly says” When people try censor something or supposedly protect you for something they are only avoiding the truth and the hard lessons needed to be learn, especially on the internet. What’s more important, our freedom to speak what we want? Or our supposed public safety?”

The Restrict Act represents a significant attempt to address the problem of harmful online content. As the online world becomes more integrated in our daily lives, it is essential that we find a way to balance free speech and public safety in a way that protects the rights and interests of all stakeholders.